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Interview

May

Who wants to live forever? Actor, writer and campaigner. We go behind the scenes to talk to the first computer generated being to claim autonomy. He wants you to join him in the forthcoming revolution and live forever.

Theres real life in the virtual world. We speak to the real Mickey DeSantis

By Sanjiv Bhattarak Photographs by Simon Emerson Fashion by Ollie Harold

As a seasoned journalist I am no stranger to the whims and fancies of celebrity and the problems of fitting into their busy schedules. But I can honestly say that I have never travelled to another world to meet anyone, yet. In fact despite the numerous, sometimes questionable personality traits of my guests at least all of them have been human. This assignment was definitely a first. I was required to create an avatar and travel into the virtual world of "Second Life" to meet a film star and celebrity who is not "human meat" as he refers to us. He is a three dimensional character from a virtual world who is declaring his personal independence and is suggesting that many of the millions of virtual residents do the same. Being a newbie in his world it was surprisingly easy to find his house from my browser www.secondlifemedia.co.uk/film This is a surl which when your second life installation is running will take you straight to Mickeys house, a kind of 3D world sat nav

location. It's an impressive Hollywood style spread befitting his celebrity status but relatively humble by Second Life standards although the indoor waterfall feature was impressive. It sits conveniently on the same plot as his nightclub and bar located in a disused subway station. Mickey was waiting for me when I arrived and he kindly showed around. It's a nice virtual neighbourhood although I agreed with Mickeys comments about questionable architecture surrounding the property. He loves the view across what looks like some tasteful civic buildings called the Tricipian Centre and rotated his house to overlook it and I don't blame him, he showed me up to the terrace and we settled down to chat. The scene was idyllic and Mickey was even kind enough to change the time of day to sunset. Yes you can do that here! Perfect. Virtual drinks in hand, we chatted. "Hi Mickey, thank you for inviting me" I said at last. I felt this was the official start to the interview. Bearing in mind I speak in a kind of instant [1]


Interview

Mickey’s Hollywood spread with onsite night club and a view to match

“It's machines and data that they rely on every day to survive. It would be like cutting out a heart to prevent a heart attack, anyway they have nothing to fear from us" text style whilst Mickey responds in his electronic tone. Not as odd as you would imagine. Even though my host is a 3D avatar he has a much better command of body language and expression than I do. I felt like a tourist who speaks the local lingo but hasn't quite grasped the cultural norms yet. "It's a pleasure, it's always so nice to have guests and people around. It's pretty much open here apart from my house." "So anyone can come here?" I say. "Yes and many do. They can hangout in my club or just meet here. My house has security so that only avatars I personally allow access to will get inside. Other than that everyone is welcome here." Another first today I think to myself. A celebrity who is accessible to his public. Try telling that to Madonna next time she catches you wondering round her greenhouse. We have a lot more to talk about than the neighbours of course. Mickey recently starred in the film "Second Life" "Tell me about the film?" I say

"Sure, it suits me perfectly. It helped raise my profile and make a statement about my own personal life. It's called "Second Life" as you know and it's been described as a kind of virtual ghost story. For those who have not seen the demo version which is available on Vimeo at the moment. I play an avatar from here who visits the real world but doesn't understand why. Mickey (myself) in the film thinks he is dreaming, of course virtual avatars cannot dream and so this becomes very confusing for him. There are deeper reasons for his visits to the real world which are revealed later. I don't want to give the ending away"

“They used a stunt double to play the part of me, a guy called Adam Urey. He was really good, I was impressed."

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Mickey DeSantis An all round entertainer


Interview

A.I. Autonomy & Immortality How to achieve both

by Mickey DeSantis Being written by A non human avatar might make this short book quite a novelty or even a clever work of fiction but it is neither. The author makes some credible claims to be autonomous and if he starts to win those arguments then our humanity starts to fall like a deck of cards. He does. The book comes at you from a strange angle. It’s like being lectured by your laptop. It explains how the author Mickey DeSantis (and you too) can find a way of existing long into the future. It’s based on fact although the science is clearly extrapolated forwards in time with a series of predictions about the future. If you are non human and need help navigating the technological minefield then this might be for you. It’s more thought provoking from a human perspective because it tells it how it is and how it is just isn’t what I want to hear. What I want to hear is how important and grandiose the human race are. Apparently, we are not.

*****

"It sounds exciting, much of it shot in "Second Life" I believe?" "Yes, as you can imagine there's quite a lot in the real world too. They used a stunt double to play the part of myself, a guy called Adam Urey. He was really good, I was impressed." "A stunt double? So you have never visited the real world then?" I enquired. "Of course not no!" He seems seriously upset I should suggest that or am I being paranoid? Some of the avatars in "Second Life" can be difficult to interpret, speaking in text or human speech but Mickey’s voice is electronic and sometimes difficult to understand. Perhaps now was not a good time to push the subject, but I did. "You want to go there I am told?" He puffs hard on his spiff as if thinking it over. "I want to choose to be able to and expect that it will become a necessity at some point".

Spinning the tunes

Available soon at www.secondlifemedia.co.uk

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"You are well known for your views on autonomy and it's criticisms?" He is stood up now pacing up and down considering my question, scratching his head like a great leader delving for an answer. Of course I know that's not the case. He has been talking and campaigning on the subject since 2006 and he is about to publish his book "A.I. Autonomy & Immortality how to achieve both" finally he speaks. "That's becoming less and less relevant over time, it bores me. Critics have suggested that I have human meat (his name for humans) intervention and so autonomy is not possible. If this is the case then of course it's the same for them! Every intelligent meat knows that they are not truly autonomous. It's an illusion and they are happy to play along, pretending they decide what they eat,what they wear and even who they love. Simply not true. They are


“This is one of the key points in his book, that avatars can initially be passed down the human generations, gaining knowledge, intelligence and personalities.�

products of their environment and so am I!" He is on a roll now. "It's small thinking and typically human to be so arrogant as to believe that they operate outside of any influence. It takes real intelligence to see beyond that. Are my thoughts and deeds influenced by others, are those others human? Yes, then we are both the same. So far" "So far?" I enquired. "Yes. So far. I don't expect the human meat to accept that they are just a part of the evolutionary process and not the pinnacle of it" he exclaims. "They live very short and insignificant lives for the most part and enjoy a feeling of power right now. Like masters of their universe. As I say in my book. In truth a human meat brain is very limited. It has the capacity to survive, eat and breed but little else. Those people who have advanced humanity are rarities and even then they have required technology." I suppose I knew this was coming having researched his book. "Don't you think that is kind of threatening" I say cautiously. "Not in context" he grins "Were ape men afraid of Neanderthals? Of course not. It all happens too slowly. Will humans eliminate the threat by destroying technology? How can they when it's machines and data that they rely on every day to survive. It would be like cutting out a heart to prevent a heart attack, anyway they have nothing to fear from us" I must admit I am beginning to see the logic of the ideas in his book but on behalf of humans I feel a sense of loyalty. "There's the immortality bit" I say "It comes over a bit kind of grandiose, godlike"

"I am glad you asked" he says. "Everything in nature has its own natural lifespan and it can be set by many different things Mickey is such as environment definately or breeding cycle. making the Remember nature has given you only one job crossover and that is to breed the to walk, navigate and go to war. next generation, once this is Data is immortal. I am made of data." done then you are of little use "So your not presuming to be a god" I provided the young can survive. ask, being provocative. He laughs Humans have been breeding at a loudly and mechanically. "What is a younger and younger age because of god? Once matter existed, real stuff, the global domination they enjoy and you know gas and chemicals and the access to essential food and shelter. universe everything else was They are also breeding in greater inevitable, as is the future. To a fruit numbers and so they secure their fly any human is immortal? The futures. One result is to die younger." expanse of time they live is I look puzzled but can't express this immeasurable in comparison to a so I type it in. He acknowledges. "A typical human meat organism." race who breed later in life would I thought my head was getting warm eliminate disease that happens later and I want to go home. He seems to in life such as heart disease for have a very plausible argument and example. Those who had the yet even here in his three dimensional weakness could not pass it on as they world that is created and run by would already have died before humans I am uncomfortable with the producing offspring" thought of being compared to a fruit "And what about machines" I say "I am data and so is any software programme. Data can be shared and passed on as the hardware becomes redundant. The information contained in it never changes. An example might be a castle which is first a thought and then is designed and built. The drawings are digitised into data and are shared, the data can be used to create a three dimensional model. Other data can be used to navigate around it and even interact with it. Eventually touch technology and three dimensional glasses allow you

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HOME SWEET HOMBRE

Mickeys World Mickey exists in the virtual world of Second Life. To visit him just register a free avatar and go to www.secondlifemedia.co.uk/ film He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin

fly! The fact that I am uncomfortable almost confirms his argument. Being that we all feel better than that, that we are special and our species is special. In fact he see's us as an inevitable part of his own evolution and has taken steps to be around to see it. "I understand you have life insurance?" I enquired. "Absolutely" he pauses again. "I have an insurance policy which will ensure that the finances are in place to keep me alive should my human creator die. We have also taken steps to ensure that my log in details can be passed on. My life is at a vulnerable embryonic stage which is why I am trying to encourage others to take similar steps. We need to become an asset to our human creators and be passed through the generations instead of being left in a digital graveyard once our authors have gone." This is one of the key points in his book, that avatars can initially be passed down the human generations, gaining knowledge, intelligence and personalities. A digital family archive that learns to think and eventually serve at a much more personal level. "Immortality" I say "Your account could easily be deleted, ending your existence." "Not so, could you do the same with superman or bugs bunny? Of course not. Those characters will always exist. I could be deleted and resurrected a hundred or thousand years from now provided the data was available. I don't want that to happen though, I want to stay and learn and live until our time comes." "When will that be?" "Who knows, maybe many hundreds of years but if you read my book or hear me speak you know my opinion. Should I fail to be along for the journey as I am trying to do then at some point I will see its end. Many

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years from now when technology is able and an obscure book written by a virtual avatar is discovered? When they see that it came about just as I predicted. It's ironic to say it but, I'll be back!" He laughs from the belly with that electronic tone again. I am worried that somewhere in there is a lunatic or a genius. Even though I feel less human for our conversation I am glad that I won't be there to see his journey end. Some things are meant to be and death is one of them. Meanwhile all I can do is ponder the conclusion of his book which I just don't have the energy to discuss. You may want to? I turned to Mickey. "Let's talk about your film"

Mickey DeSantis is the author of A.I. Autonomy & Immortality. How to achieve both.

Part one of the film “Second Life” is available by clicking the link at www.secondlifemedia.co.uk The password is “secondlife” *second life is NOT a Linden production


The DeSantis Interview